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Aron Dotan z''l

T-S K9.14
T-S K9.14 (recto): leaf from a masoretic work on accents.
Author: 
Kim Phillips
Mon 30 May 2022

Aron Dotan (b. 12th January 1928, Stuttgart)—one of the giants of 20th century Hebrew Linguistics and Masoretic Studies—passed away on 27th May 2022.

Dotan arrived in Israel at the age of five, when his parents made aliyyah to escape the evils of Nazi Germany. He went on to study Hebrew Language and Literature, and Semitic Linguistics, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and thereafter taught Hebrew Studies and Semitics at the universities of Tel-Aviv and Bar-Ilan, with great distinction.

In the 1950s Dotan was part of the Hebrew Language Committee (originally set up by Eliezer Ben-Yehuda himself), which was instrumental in securing and consolidating the place of the Hebrew language in the State of Israel. He went on to be a fellow of the Academy of the Hebrew Language (the successor of the Hebrew Language Committee).

Dotan’s scholarship was remarkably wide-ranging and influential. He published in the fields of biblical Hebrew and Aramaic, mediaeval Hebrew linguistics, and Judaeo-Arabic studies. To me though, as a student of Genizah Bible manuscripts, Dotan was first and foremost a scholar of Masora. In fact, he was one of the three Mighty Men of Masora of the 20th century: Mordechai Breuer, Israel Yeivin, and Aron Dotan. These three scholars, all born in Germany in the 1920s, all making aliyyah to Israel in their early years, largely shaped the discipline of Masoretic Studies over the course of the second half of the 20th century. All three have now passed away.

Dotan’s work relied heavily on the Cairo Genizah manuscripts. His doctoral work—now a standard reference work in Masoretic Studies—used the Genizah manuscripts to re-edit what is perhaps the most significant text for the study of the Tiberian Masora: the Diqduqe HaTeamim by Aaron ben Asher. Similarly, the Genizah manuscripts permeate the rest of Dotan’s subsequent scholarship, including his work on the origins of Hebrew lexicography for which he was awarded the Israel prize in 2005.

It is fitting to close with an extract from one of the colophons of the famous Leningrad Codex (Dotan’s edition of which is presented to every recruit in the Israeli Army). The colophon refers to the meticulous scholarship of Aron ben Asher (about whom Dotan knew so much!), but can also be referred to the later bearer of the same name. The writer of the colophon notes his explicit intent to learn from: “the clear and carefully corrected books produced by the learned Aron… may he rest in gan Eden.”

 

Reviews of Dotan's recent publications can be found on the Genizah Fragments blog here: Studies in Hebrew Linguistics and Masora and Thesaurus of Quntrese Ha-Masora: Hidden Language Treasures of Old

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